Actor, activist and philanthropist Eva Longoria delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Teresa Lozano Long Conference “Central Americans and the Latino/a Landscape: New Configurations of Latino/a America,” on February 25. The conference, organized by the Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies in collaboration with the Center for Mexican American Studies, explored the changing character of the Latino population in the United States in economic, political and cultural realms.
The purpose of the conference was to emphasize how Latina/o America needs to be understood as a geographically displaced phenomenon with complex connections of commodities, people and cultural production.
Longoria’s personal testimony about her own identity crisis as a young Latina growing up in South Texas and moving to Hollywood during the “Latin boom” brought warmth and humor to the scholarly environment.
“When it comes to my identity, I found out over the years that I constantly negotiated my space — as a Latina, as a woman. And I’ve built my own cultural wealth by discovering my roots, by exploring my history, by continuing to stay curious about the world,” Longoria said. “My identity lives in what Gloria Andalzua calls “nepantla”— the transition. I’m not only Mexican or American. I’m straddling that hyphen that joins the two. I love to build my own cultural economy, my own identity, and I do that through education.”
A master’s student of Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge, the actress is also a board member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization, and works closely with the United Farm Workers and the Dolores Huerta Foundation. She was selected by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Museum of the American Latino Commission.